Non-domestic buildings - heating systems: research report

Research we commissioned from Locogen to provide a set of case studies on the installation of zero direct emissions heating systems in both new and existing non-domestic buildings. Provides key insights on the challenges and opportunities in decarbonising these buildings.

2. Project Scope

a. Methodology

To meet the aims of this research (as outlined Section 1) the following methodology was used:

1. Project Inception

2. Develop case study template and data collection framework

3. Identify suitable case studies

4. Stakeholder engagement and data collection

5. Data collation and analysis

6. Reporting

i. Project inception

At the initiation of the project in January 2022, Locogen and the Scottish Government project teams met virtually to agree the aims, definitions and scope of the research.

ii. Develop case study template and data collection framework

We carried out secondary research to find examples of ‘best practice’ case study dissemination templates. From this critique, we created a template, based on the objectives of this research, for presenting the case studies and this was agreed upfront with the Scottish Government. We also created a data collection template that would be sent to stakeholders to collect real world data on ZDEH systems. These templates were used as a foundation for collecting qualitative and quantitative information through the course of the project.

iii. Identify suitable case studies

We created a long list of potential case studies from primary research, utilising our network of contacts across the Scottish building industry, as well as secondary research to expand the search as far as possible. We categorised the long list of buildings identified and created a shortlist of buildings to showcase as case studies, based on a set of criteria developed in collaboration with the Scottish Government. The shortlist of buildings was agreed with the Scottish Government prior to data collection.

iv. Stakeholder engagement and data collection

A contact log, discussion guide and data collection templates were created ahead of stakeholder engagement to facilitate the interviews. For each case study, interviews with developers, owners and/or occupants were held to obtain as full an understanding as possible of the drivers and barriers of selecting ZDEH, the installation process and the technology’s performance. For each case study, a project information questionnaire was issued to collect numerical data (included in Appendix B).

v. Data collation and analysis

Following the stakeholder engagement, the themes and trends were identified from the qualitative and quantitative information gathered, to provide insights regarding the installation of ZDEH technologies.

vi. Reporting

We created 20 case studies to showcase ZDEH in non-domestic buildings. The insights gathered across the case studies on the barriers, drivers and impacts of adopting ZDEH have been presented in this report and in the accompanying excel document which collates the quantitative data from case studies.

b. Technology Scope

i. Considered technologies

At the inception meeting, the following technologies were deemed in scope for this research:

  • Heat pumps (excluding gas or hybrid versions)
  • Direct electric heating
  • District heat networks (DHNs)
  • Biomass boilers

Importantly, biomass boilers are not a ZDEH, but they been included in the scope of this work, where examples of other technologies were not available to create case studies, since they are commonly used.

ii. Other technologies

After discussions with the Scottish Government, the following technologies were deemed out of scope for this research. This was due to the technologies not providing a full heating solution, not being of interest to the new building standards, or too innovative to consider in this research:

  • Solar Thermal
  • Waste heat (other than in DHNs)
  • Variable Refrigerant flow (VRF) systems
  • Hydrogen boilers

c. Case study characterisation

A range of buildings were selected to profile in the case studies as examples of ZDEH in non-domestic buildings. Theses selected to demonstrate a range of technologies, across different organisations, building types and tenure, locations and based on availability of building owners and operators that we could talk to within the limited time available to complete the study. The tables in Appendix A provide a summary of the 20 case studies selected.

d. Limitations of this research

There are a number of limitations of this research that need to be taken into account. As outlined in Section 1 and Section 3, there are approximately 220,000 existing non-domestic buildings in Scotland and there are no robust datasets to characterise heat in the non-domestic building sector. As only 20 case studies have been researched (from a long list of 137 buildings identified, Appendix A), it is not possible to determine the extent to which the case studies are representative of the Scottish non-domestic building stock.

The insights gathered include qualitative and anecdotal evidence from a range of building stakeholders, including project managers, owners, occupants, engineers and consultants, with a range of experience, expertise and understanding of the heating system. Additionally, it is evident that not all buildings fit neatly into a newbuild or retrofit category, or into a single planning class. Additionally, one of the aims of this research was to consider the barriers to adopting ZDEH.

However, there is an inherent bias in the data collected, in that the buildings identified all successfully installed ZDEH and therefore did not encounter any barriers that were significant enough to block the adoption of ZDEH altogether.

This research was conducted over a short timeframe. Whilst every effort was made to select case studies across all non-domestic planning categories and a range of technologies, locations, and building sizes, the selection process prioritised stakeholders who were willing to engage within the timeframe. Difficulties were encountered in this process as various stakeholders from fast food and large retail chains declined to participate in the study. Ultimately, it was not possible to source a case study for a fast-food restaurant. Furthermore, some stakeholders did not want to participate due to negative experiences with, or lack of knowledge of, their heating systems. As such, lessons learned from case studies that experienced significant challenges have been missed. Conversely, some participating case studies provided fewer learnings, and/or quantitative data than requested and anticipated. This is due to a various factors including, the implementation process being externally managed, because the ZDEH system operated very well and there was limited feedback to provide, due to stakeholders not being able to provide the data and insight within the short timescales.



Back to top